Space Base Board Game Review
WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2-5
You’ll like this if you like: Dice Forge, Lords of Vegas, Machi Koro.
Published by: Alderac Entertainment Group
Designed by: John D. Clair
John D. Clair is a bit of a legend in the board game industry. He has made some huge hitters in recent years. When a game comes out with his name on the box, a lot of people pay attention. Including me! Back in 2018 Space Base came out to critical acclaim. It replaced Machi Koro for a lot of people in the light weight tableau-builder category. Quite a feat at the time. But does it stand the test of time? Does it deserve a place in your collection now in 2023? Let's get it to the table and find out.
Give each player a command console and the 12 starting cards in their chosen colour. Each player will now lay these out on their board running one to 12, left to right. Each player will then place a yellow, green, and blue cube onto the starting space on their credit, income, and victory point spaces. Move the credit space up five spaces the five spot. One player then needs to sort the rest of the cards by the four types. There are level one, level two, level three, and colony cards. Shuffle each type separately and then deal out all of the colony cards face up, and six each of the others into a shared tableau. Leave the remaining cards for the three levels in a face down pile next to each relevant row. Then pile the clear resources cubes into a space in the middle of the table along with the two dice. Finally, each player will draw the top face-down level one card and reduce their current energy level according to the cost of the card they drew. This is the yellow number in the top left space. Then look at the grey number on the top right, and replace the matching card on their command console, sliding the replaced card rotated 180 degrees under the board in the corresponding space so that only the top red section is now visible. The player who drew the card with the highest starting sector takes the first player card and all other players will gain additional resources. The second player gains one credit. The third player gains two. The fourth and fifth player would gain one income. The game can now begin.
How To Play
In Space Base, players are racing to 40 points. As soon as this is triggered by any player, finish the current round so all players have the same number of turns. Then the player with the most points, wins. You can score over 40 points, despite there being no position for this. The rules suggest you use a clear charge cube to track this.
On each players turn they will roll the two dice. They can then activate the middle section of any matching card or cards. For example, if you rolled a four and a five, you could activate the four and the five, or the nine, the total of these two dice. The abilities you can trigger this way are generally extra credits, income, or points. Your starting cards will be weak, but you can upgrade quickly. And you will want to upgrade because each card you replace is rotated and placed under your board, so that you now have more passive powers.
These come into effect on every other players turn. If in the above example when the first player rolled a four and five, all other players with a red passive power shown in a tucked card in either the four, five, or nine position can now activate that abilities. Again, generally to get credits, income, or points. In Space Base, all players are playing, all of the time. There is minimal downtime.
However, once the active player has rolled their dice and activated their active powers, they can then spend their credits to buy more cards if they choose. Which does take a moment or two. Any bought card is immediately placed onto the active players command console and the replaced card is tucked. No matter how many credits were spent, the credit marker moves down to the space above the location that the income marker is currently at. You always have to spend all available credits, but only to the point at which your income is currently situated. For example, if you buy a card worth five but you have ten credits, you need to move your credits down to zero. But if you have four credits, you would stop there.
There are some cards with special abilities, such as mimicking the abilities on the cards next to them or in other locations on the command console, the chance to get new cards, or some that need to be charged up by placing charge cubes on them, and then rewarding you with bigger powers. One even wins yo the game! But I have never seen that card work!
Players can also spend their credit to buy the colony cards. These reward you with instant points, but then lock down an area on your board. You cannot use that number again, or replace that card for the rest of the game. They are worth going for, but ideally not in the first third of the game, or in the more common spaces.
Is It Fun?
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Space Base is its dynamic and fast-paced nature. The game possesses an unexpected speed that catches players off guard, resulting in a thrilling, quick, and entertaining game. At the start, when you have just one passive ability, you are more often than not unable to enact any passive abilities on other players turns. But this very quickly changes and the game races ahead. Although, some do complain about the slow start, I couldn't disagree more. But you can speed it up by given players extra credits or cards to begin with if you prefer.
In addition to its speed, the game is designed to give players a constant sense of progression, which keeps them engaged and invested throughout the game. You start with limited abilities but these also quickly change. You will generally upgrade one card each turn, and turns are quick. It wont be long before you feel the game has moved on a lot. It's incredibly satisfying to see the fruits of your labour come to life, making every roll of the dice all the more exciting.
The game's design makes it challenging for any one player to pull ahead significantly, creating tight and intense games where every move counts but all players feel like they are in with a chance of victory right until the end. On occasion, one player could fall behind if they focusing on developing their income when another player goes for early point. But this development in their engine will mean they can catch up.
Overall, Space Base is very simple game that can provide hours of entertainment for all of the family. It has a number of excellent expansions, include a campaign one I am intrigued by. There is a lot of longevity in this little box.